- This article is about the character in the series. For the character in the film, see Gyatso.
|"We can't concern ourselves with what was. We must act on what is."|
|— Gyatso to Aang.|
Monk Gyatso was Avatar Aang's guardian, mentor, and father figure before the beginning of the Hundred Year War, as well as a member of the Council of Elders. According to Aang, he was the greatest airbender in the world during his time.
Gyatso was known for his kindness and sense of humor. Though Aang learned airbending under him as part of his Avatar training, the monk always allowed time for fun and games, such as Pai Sho. In his earlier years, Gyatso also had a strong friendship with Aang's previous incarnation, Roku.
Gyatso was slain during the genocide of the Air Nomads, during which Fire Lord Sozin invaded the air temples. The place where his body was found revealed that he had managed to defeat many comet-enhanced Fire Nation soldiers before his demise.
Gyatso grew up in the Southern Air Temple and became close friends with Roku when the young Avatar traveled to the temple at age sixteen to commence his airbending training. Before starting their gliding lesson, Gyatso and Roku were goofing off by using their bending to blow Roku's long hair in each other's face while standing in line. During the lesson, Roku showed off a new glider trick by making several loops in the air. Gyatso tried to top his skill by air surfing atop his glider, but the young monk soon lost control, only to be saved by Roku. The additional weight proved too much for him to handle, and the two of them crashed into a group of student airbenders on the land below. The crash did little to dampen their spirits, however, as they both smiled at one another over what had happened.
Eventually, Gyatso became a master airbender and received his tattoos around the mid-50s BG. As a young man, the Air Nomads were increasingly involved in the affairs of the other nations, regarding this as the best way for the Air Nomads to reach others and help the world. However, this provoked a discourse on how far they should be involved with the leaders of other nations, as they were often wealthy or aristocratic figures with a lot of worldly prosperity, who were often unwilling to cede their own power. Believing that the stance of the temples was impeding the spiritual growth of people around the world, a renegade order known as the Guiding Wind broke from the temples and argued against involvement with the elite classes of other nations. Gyatso remained neutral in these debates, and he believed that diversity amongst his people was a good thing, and that internal debate often led to fruitful progress no matter the decision. To that end, he encouraged the temples to discuss and debate one another in the spirit of compromise.
Gyatso was later promoted to be one of the five head monks at the Southern Air Temple. He was highly respected, a great baker, kind, and wise, but he remained a bit of a prankster. At some point, Gyatso befriended a younger Guru Pathik.
Some time after Roku's death, Gyatso became the guardian of the next Avatar, Aang, and formed a strong bond of friendship with the young Air Nomad. Gyatso regularly participated in Yangchen's Festival together with his pupil. After the festival's end, he took the young nomads to an island just off the coast, where they used airbending to fly cranefish kites. Due to this, Aang always missed the tales the Air Nomad elders used to tell, though Gyatso assured him that he would have "plenty of time" to learn of Air Nomad history later in his life.
Twelve years after Roku's death, Gyatso was present with the rest of the Council of Elders when Aang's identity as the new Avatar was revealed. Since Gyatso was Aang's personal teacher and guardian, it also became his duty to better the Avatar's airbending skills. The bond between the two became very strong and intimate to the point where Gyatso became a paternal figure to Aang, as well as a close friend and confidant. He helped Aang with his airbending training, played games with him, and made Aang's difficult time at the temple more enjoyable.
Even though Aang's status was announced as the Avatar, Gyatso believed that he should still grow up as a normal boy. He refused to accelerate Aang's airbending training and assured Monk Tashi that Aang was content and had time for games. The other monks disagreed with this, believing that Gyatso's affection for the boy was clouding his judgment. They decreed that Gyatso and Aang were to be separated and that Aang was to be sent to the Eastern Air Temple to complete his training. Aang overheard this and, having already been ostracized by his peers after his identity as the Avatar had been revealed, was shocked that the monks wanted to isolate him from his last and best friend. Not knowing that Gyatso intended to fight this decision, Aang fled the temple with Appa and was subsequently frozen into an iceberg for one hundred years. Gyatso never saw Aang again.
After Aang ran away, the Fire Nation launched an assault on the Southern Air Temple, intent on slaughtering the temple's population. Gyatso managed to fend off and defeat many firebenders, despite their enhanced abilities as a result of Sozin's Comet. However, he eventually fell, along with the rest of the Air Nomads.
A wooden statue of Monk Gyatso was placed in the courtyard of the Southern Air Temple before the entrance of the hallway that led to the Air Temple sanctuary, celebrating his airbending prowess. Gyatso's memory lived on in the form of Aang, who grieved his death greatly, going into the Avatar State upon discovering his corpse in the rubble of a destroyed building within the Southern Air Temple. When Aang was trying to open his chakras, he needed to release all his grief in order to open the air chakra located in his heart. When Aang laid out all his grief in front of him, all the Air Nomads with Gyatso at the front, appeared before him. Thanks to Pathik's guidance, Aang was able to cope with the pain that Gyatso's death and the demise of the Air Nomads had given him, and he was able to let go of it.
Gyatso had a great sense of humor; he often played pranks on his peers with his pupil, Aang, and even used his airbending to cheat during a Pai Sho game. Though he often played around, Gyatso was also a wise man, and one of the five members of the Southern Air Temple's Council of Elders. He was a kind and understanding individual who was well-liked by other students in the temple. Gyatso held a great adoration for Aang, desiring to keep him close by his side and shelter his childhood to the point that the council saw fit to separate the two. An emphatic man, he had the ability to bring a smile to Aang's face, even when the latter felt depressed and under pressure. Gyatso always managed to effortlessly work levity into difficult situations, while still taking everyone's feelings seriously. He also procrastinated in his training when he was younger, such as when he did not practice his gliding, instead choosing to race with Avatar Roku. As they matured, Roku often came to Gyatso for practical advice or a fresh perspective when he was feeling dour.
According to Aang, Gyatso was the "greatest airbender in the world". During his youth, Gyatso showed proficiency in the use of airbender staffs, as he was able to windsurf using his glider and perform numerous maneuvers while in the air. When the Fire Nation besieged the Southern Air Temple, Gyatso used his airbending abilities to fend off and eliminate numerous Fire Nation assailants whose power had been enhanced by Sozin's Comet, before he was ultimately subdued and killed along with the rest of his people.
Gyatso was Aang's father figure and mentor. The two shared a close bond and were often found having fun together. They used airbending to play pranks on the other inhabitants of the Air Temple, such as interrupting the Council's meditation by throwing fruit pies at them. Aang loved Gyatso like a father and was devastated when the Elders told him he was the Avatar and would need to leave Gyatso. This, in fact, was one of the reasons Aang ran away from home. The full extent of Gyatso's reaction to this is not known, but he was shown to be deeply worried when he read Aang's goodbye letter.
When Aang returned to the Southern Air Temple one hundred years later, he accidentally stumbled upon Gyatso's skeleton, causing him to cross over into the Avatar State, overcome by rage, grief and guilt. Aang would continue to feel guilty about running away and "not being there for his people when they needed him most" until Guru Pathik helped him to deal with this pain and to let it go. A mirage of Monk Gyatso and the other airbenders played before his eyes when he thought of them and they disappeared into the clouds as Aang let them go.
Avatar Roku first met Gyatso when he journeyed to the Southern Air Temple in order to learn airbending. The two shared a small rivalry with each other, each of them trying to outdo the other by using air gliders to race each other. Eventually, however, they became great friends, even later in life. When Avatar Roku was showing Aang how the Hundred Year War started, he noted that "some friendships are so strong that they can even transcend lifetimes", citing his experiences with Gyatso as evidence.
Gyatso had a good relationship with the other Air Nomad boys, who were rather fond of him. He was regarded highly as an excellent airbender and was chosen among the other men to be on the Council of Elders. However, the other monks believed he was holding Aang back in his training, which resulted in Gyatso being forced to separate from Aang.
Guru Pathik mentioned to Aang that he was a close personal friend of Monk Gyatso.
- Gyatso once taught Aang how to divert his fears when Aang was afraid or nervous: one must close his or her eyes, take deep breaths, and think about his or her favorite animal.
- Gyatso is the only one of Aang's elemental masters to not have been a member of Team Avatar.
- Gyatso is the first known person who trained alongside an Avatar and later taught their successor, with Katara being the second and Jianzhu being the third.
- Though hundreds of airbenders and others died in the War, Gyatso's skeleton was the only one shown during the whole series.
- Gyatso's remains were surrounded by the armor of a large number of Fire Nation soldiers, the first indication in the series that airbending can be lethal and used to kill. As such, Gyatso was the first known airbender to have killed, with Zaheer being the second.
- Near the end of the series, Aang wore beads that looked exactly like Gyatso's.
- Gyatso's name matches the last name of the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.
- In early drafts, Momo was supposed to be Gyatso's reincarnation but this idea ultimately went unused.
- In an interview on AvatarSpirit.net, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino were asked whether Gyatso was a member of the Order of the White Lotus. While the latter answered that they would neither confirm nor deny it, the former revealed, though somewhat jokingly, that he used to contribute funds to the society.
- Gyatso's favorite fruit pies were the red ones.
- Gyatso will be played by Lim Kay Siu in Netflix's upcoming live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Unknown, eventually Jianzhu
Unknown - 0 AG
Unknown; eventually Kelsang
|Avatar's airbending master
12 BG - 0 AG